May 29, 2024

COLUMN: Still no closure

Make your own case

Thursday I was driving in Clarke and Decatur counties helping our sibling paper in Osceola with an upcoming project. On the radio were the stories reviewing the O.J. Simpson murder trial from 1995. The former NFL player turned actor was acquitted of the double murder charges of his ex-wife and a male friend of hers. Simpson died last Wednesday.

One of the radio news segments included responses from groups of people watching the conclusion of the trial. After not guilty was said, one of the groups erupted in cheers and applause, much like the fans who did the same when Simpson scored during his football days.

I felt sorrow for the relatives of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. What does it feel like hearing those cheers then but knowing there is still nobody to blame for the deaths of the people? What does it feel like hearing those cheers 30 years later and there is still nobody to blame for the deaths? There were several other people throughout the case that got celebrity-like attention during the trial.

Some social psychologists say the cheers were probably based on a Black man not being convicted of a murder knowing the Rodney King riots were just a few years prior, also in metro-Los Angeles. A truck driver who was black, King was unnecessarily roughed up by white police officers.

I’ve covered a couple of murder cases in my career. There were suspects. There was evidence. There was a jury that mixed the two and agreed on a guilty charge. I don’t know what it feels like to be related to a victim of a murder. I don’t know what it feels like to not know who did it. I can’t imagine what Nicole’s and the Goldman family are going through 30 years later still not knowing.

I have only received jury notification once in my life and it was a federal case on top of that. I was in the middle of moving to another state and the court accepted my reason as dismissed me. I’ve been intrigued by jury duty. I do wonder what it’s like to know those details on both sides, regardless of what the case is about. Nicole’s and the Goldman relatives probably look at a pair of gloves differently then virtually the entire rest of the country’s population. I know, some people can get irritated by being informed of jury duty, but the same pool has the goal of bringing closure to the case.

The Simpson case, which we remember that started out as a moderate pursuit of him in a white Ford Bronco by police officers along L.A. freeways, is not alone.

Iowa’s Edgar Epperly, who has extensively researched the unsolved deaths of eight people in Villiscia in 1912 (whose work has been in the CNA pages) said that might be the most important, unsolved murder specifically because of the number of people involved. That incident is history now. There is really nothing left to go with to pursue who did it. One suspect admitted he did it, but recanted and he was known to have mental health issues.

There is still no suspect for the death of JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old child from Boulder, Colorado, who was found dead in her home the day after Christmas 1996. The death may have happened late Christmas night. That, too, also got much national attention mainly because of the age of the victim. Having lived in Colorado and at the time it happened, the mystery is that is not how children of well-to-do parents die in Boulder. Things like that don’t happen in Boulder to people like that.

It’s understandable why Simpson remained an attention-getter after the trial as his NFL and acting days were what he was known for before the deaths.

I just don’t want the feelings the people close to Nicole and the Goldman family forgotten. They need closure.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.